One year later, rally renews call for immigrant rights

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CHICAGO — Calling for defense of immigrant rights and an end to the Iraq war, some 2,000 people rallied at the Federal Plaza here March 10. The action took place exactly one year after a Chicago march of hundreds of thousands ignited pro-immigrant-rights demonstrations across the country, including a history-making turnout of millions nationwide on May Day.

“Last year we did half of our task to defeat HR 4437,” said Jorge Mujica, an organizer of the event. Mujica was referring to a bill introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) that would have criminalized all undocumented immigrants and those assisting them. While the bill passed the Republican-controlled House, it got bogged down in the Senate.

The other half of the job, Mujica said, “is to get some kind of pro-immigration reform approved. Last year we marched against something. This year we want to march for something … the broadest, most fair immigration reform possible.”

Mujica said immigrants are still under attack in a “low-intensity war.” Leaders of unions, churches, community and immigrant advocacy groups, as well as undocumented workers, blasted the federal immigration raids taking place across the country.

Moises Zavala, an organizer with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881, told the crowd, “We have to ensure that all workers have the right to organize with a living wage. We can do that by fighting for and passing the Employee Free Choice Act,” a bill that would make it easier for workers to form unions.

The rally was organized by the March 10 Movement, a coalition demanding legalization for all immigrants with full civil and labor rights, reunification of families, an end to raids and deportations, no guest worker programs and employer sanctions and no use of local police for immigration enforcement. The group is also calling for an end to the war in Iraq and withdrawal of all U.S. troops.

Ireri Unzueta-Carrasco, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the World she attended every immigrant rights protest last year. “This is an important cause. Access to higher education, fair job treatment, a living wage, the right to not be exploited — this is a human rights issue and these are rights everyone should be entitled to,” she said.

Rally organizers are launching a 50-day campaign urging supporters to flood Congress with phone calls, e-mail messages and letters telling lawmakers to pass comprehensive pro-immigration reform. The campaign is planning neighborhood events and prayer vigils for the next two months, culminating in another May 1 march through downtown.

“Our determination to forge this movement ahead is alive today,” Carlos Arango, executive director of Casa Aztlan, an immigrant rights center, told the crowd. “We will not give up. We need to march with our calls and letters to Washington, so they can hear our voice and act on this historic opportunity for immigration reform.”

plozano @ pww.org